Earlier this month, an appellate court determined that a woman who injured herself while on a government-owned playground was not entitled to compensation under a premises liability theory. In ruling against the plaintiff, the court cited the state’s “recreational use statute.”
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was a young girl who injured herself while playing on a wooden jungle gym that was located in a state park. According to the plaintiff’s mother, the jungle gym “had deteriorated to the point where the wood was frayed, split and slivered.” After the incident, the woman contacted the Parks and Recreation Department and complained of the condition of the jungle gym and informed them of her daughter’s injuries. She soon afterward filed suit against the government as the owner and operator of the park.
The judge hearing the case determined that, under the state’s recreational use statute, the general rule is that the government cannot be held liable for injuries that occur on its land when the user is engaged in recreational activity. The court noted, however, that the rule is not absolute, and if the injured party can show that there was a “malicious or willful failure” to warn of a dangerous condition, liability may arise.
In the end, the court found in favor of the government, however, since there was no evidence submitted by the plaintiff that there was any “malicious or willful” conduct at issue. In fact, it was determined that this was the first reported injury on that particular jungle gym.
The Recreational Use Statute in Indiana
A recreational use statute is common in most states, and it acts to limit the liability of landowners, including the state or federal government, in order to encourage them to keep their land open for recreational enjoyment. In Indiana, the recreational use statute is very similar to the one in the case discussed above, and as a general rule it grants immunity to governments in premises liability actions when the injured party was engaging in recreational activity.
There are, however, exceptions to the immunity from suit. For example, if the injured party is hurt due to a “malicious or illegal” act of the landowner, liability could arise. Similarly, the doctrine of “attractive nuisance” will still apply with force, even on government land. The attractive nuisance doctrine may result in liability if the injured party is a child, and they were drawn to the dangerous condition on the landowner’s property because it is one that is likely to attract children.
Have You Been Injured While on the Property of Another?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an accident that occurred on the property of another, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Of course, defendants in these cases will likely try and evade liability by all means, and you should be prepared with as strong a case as possible. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Indiana personal injury attorney, call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation.
10-Year-Old Girl Killed in Miami County Car Accident; Alcohol Suspected, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2015
Indiana State Trooper Struck by Passing Motorist While Responding to Accident, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 2, 2015